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chok swarm

This report I present not in my words, but those of Haftera Djuur, the Vastlander who knows the language of the chok and has experienced their method of travel underwater.
Scribe Elan Straibala
We have known of the chok for some four or five centuries. They regularly visit the communities at the ocean's edge. Still, few natives of Chawso have any firsthand knowledge of them, because they have never continued up the river. I am uncertain whether it is the depth or the composition that makes it unsuitable, but the chok have made clear they dislike Ciiadociee.  
The chok were first observed, I have learned, in their swarm appearance. They were repeatedly sighted moving along, emerging from or just under the water surface. Often a large number of people would gather to see one go by. Later on, a chok swarm would roll up to the shore with the rising tide and rest there until the tide turned. And as the people became accustomed to that sight, the swarm would then disassemble into individuals. This slow process was how the chok made their introduction.

Haftera's drawing of a chok swarm by The Big G

Inside the Swarm

So much I learned from our Journey Festival guests. When I left Chawso to travel to your islands, I didn't think to learn any more. But now I have not only witnessed a chok swarm, I have been inside one. The unexpected opportunity came to me at the invitation of the chok I communicate with. This was, of course, quite a risk to take. My understanding of Choktap was much less certain at that time, and I had only the vaguest assurance that I would be returned to my starting position. Still, I had no thought of passing the opportunity by. I indicated to the chok that I was willing, and recorded the signal it gave to the other chok to assemble into a swarm. The paired chok rolled into the ocean and opened as if hinged, displaying their insides as they linked to other chok.

Haftera's drawing of chok anatomy by The Big G
I must confess that the internal workings of a chok are a grotesque sight. Its organs are contained in eight ropes of flesh radiating from its center, each with a series of circular depressions proceeding along its length and two rows of extended fingers to either side of the circles. The two thickest and longest ropes coil about the center of the chok. In the swarm, each chok entwines its six outer ropes with its neighbors' to form secure joinings, reinforcing the seams made by the connecting edges of their armor.
The aroma emanating from the swarm was strong, as of stale ocean water and digested air. I found it extremely unpleasant in the first, but soon I became inured to it and it ceased to bother me. I stepped inside very carefully, wishing to avoid damaging any chok's soft parts. At first the swarm was joined in a broad sheet roughly the shape of an open hand, but once I was in position the chok adjusted their shapes to curl the sheet and bring its fingers together, forming a hollow sphere.   As the swarm closed around me, its interior grew entirely dark, as I expected. However, I soon discerned many spots of pale light, some steady, others appearing and disappearing. After several minutes I became enough accustomed to the dark to observe that the lights appeared on the central coiled organs of each chok. A few patterns became apparent, and it's my belief that chok within a swarm communicate with distant members of the same swarm by means of regulating these lights. You can trust that I am eager to discover the keys to the language they represent!   My journey inside a swarm was a short one. Although I could not see what was happening outside, I guessed the swarm's travel from its motions. A repeated rocking I took to be the swarm leaving the shore, and marked its submergence by the sensation of water pressing on all sides of the swarm. While under the water I felt motions consistent with turning in a wide circle, and then with more rocking I was returned to shore. The swarm opened in the reverse manner of its closing, splitting seams and flattening into a sheet again. As valuable as the experience was, it was a delight to me to step onto solid land. Travel by chok swarm is an even less pleasant way to cross ocean, and ever since then I have been more appreciative of the firm construction of boats.

A note on the difficulty of identifying chok:

I have never been able to distinguish one chok from another. It is always a single chok that approaches me, and I take assumption that it is the same one. Everyone who has spoken to me about the chok admits to the same difficulty.   Chok, however, appear to have no difficulty in recognizing individual people. Though the trading chok prefer to receive items that are novel to them, they understand when someone values a particular item, and on later visits will unerringly offer more of its kind to that very person.

Would you like to know more about the chok? So would we! Here's what we have learned so far:
Species | Jun 8, 2023

The chok are aquatic beings known to us through the Vastland humans, who carry on a trading relationship with them despite being unable to communicate clearly.

Haftera himself is one of the most remarkable people I have ever met.
Haftera Djuur
Character | Nov 2, 2023

A native Vastlander, Haftera is the expert in the non-human languages of the southern Ocean.

Drawing of a silver seashell with the text
So many thanks to nnie for running this challenge, and to Qurilion for judging!

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Cover image: Haftera's chok sketches by The Big G


Author's Notes

Under the Sea Flash Challenge Entry
This article is an entry to the unofficial Under the Sea Flash Challenge.

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Jun 1, 2023 12:57 by Annie Stein

Drawing of a silver seashell with the text
Congratulations! This article was the 2nd place winner of the Under the Sea challenge.   As part of your prize we've put together this badge for you. You can use it as well with the code [img:4559556], or [imgblock:4559556]   The other part of your prize is a drawing related to your article. Do you have a discord or somewhere we could talk about what you'd like drawn?

Creator of Solaris -— Come Explore!
Jun 2, 2023 00:04

*stunned* Uh... Whoa... Really was not expecting this... I don't have a discord but I have access to the World Anvil discord, does that count?

From The River to The Ocean, a civilization grows up.
Jun 1, 2023 22:37 by Rin Garnett

This is such a neat, novel creature! It reminds me of the ants that cling to each other to float along the water. It's also kind of adorable that they recognize when a person likes a particular thing and keeps offering it to them.

Jun 2, 2023 07:24

Thank you! I modeled them on vampire squid, but have obviously taken a lot of liberties with the biology. They're probably the oddest creatures in my world right now, and the most mysterious. I actually don't know yet why they're so interested in trading goods.

From The River to The Ocean, a civilization grows up.
Jun 15, 2023 14:27

Thanks for taking part in the unofficial challenge!   Creativity: 8,5 Verisimilitude: 7 Presentation: 6   The Chok are a really bizarre and inventive species, so I am all here for it.   What I would've liked to see is some more description of their exterior. You do a good job of describing the interior, including smells, but what does it feel to touch one, what do they look like from the outside? I realize there’s another article about the Chok, but something from the author of the story would be wonderful.   You mention they trade, but not what or how. I assume they carry stuff inside the swarm shell, but what do they carry? And how, to the best of the author in the setting's knowledge, do they acquire these things? What do they eat, do for fun, and sleep? Are there rogue Chok's who get ejected from the swarm because of illness or crime?   You also mention Choktap at one point, but I don't think you explain what it is. Is it the language of the Chok?   As for formatting, I'd consider adding more spacing in the beginning of the text. Ideally a header should be closer to the text it's describing than the paragraph above it, to help group them together and help people who are skimming the article. Making sure you're consistent with your spacing too, like having double spaces between all paragraphs.   In slimmer columns like sidebars splitting up paragraphs more frequently can also improve legibility. Ideally you don't want a paragraph to be a lot taller than it is wide.   Also one of the judges missed the link to the chok article. You could consider putting a blocklink to the Chok article in the sidebar or somewhere to make it more visible. This also gives readers a natural place to go next!   As a minor prose note, instead of 'quite strong' or 'quite dark', consider using something stronger and more distinct. Two quites in close proximity is a little noticeable.   Things to work on: Clarify some of the details that are mentioned but not explained (If desired) Add a double space between the first and second paragraph and some space over "Inside the Swarm" Repetition makes a word stand out, so make sure it's on purpose  

Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.
Jun 16, 2023 16:47

Thank you, this is valuable feedback! I'll try those formatting changes. I'm with you on the repeated words--those multiple "quites" slipped right by me. As far as the content I'll expand and clarify what I can, but a lot of your questions I don't have answers to yet, and I may not be able to get to them until after Summer Camp. It frustrates me to have to sideline the chok just as I've started to figure them out, but I ended up shifting to a different world.

From The River to The Ocean, a civilization grows up.
Jun 6, 2024 04:33

The chok have their own world now, and I blame you. :D If you are still curious about them you can visit The Deeps, where they will be getting my attention this Summer Camp.

From The River to The Ocean, a civilization grows up.
Jun 8, 2024 06:10


Creator of Araea, Megacorpolis, and many others.